Product has been added to the basket

Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...

Something Wiki this way comes

What are the most visited websites in the world?

Geoscientist Online, 3 May 2012

To answer this question, most of us will refer to Wikipedia. While the site hasn't quite achieved the stratospheric heights of Facebook and Google, it is rarely out of the top ten.

"Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge" says the foundation's mission statement. And they really do mean 'all' knowledge - you can read up about quantum theory, find out who George Clooney's dating or how many different types of jam there are without having to consult an encyclopaedia, or Hello! magazine once.

Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has been known as the scourge of teachers and lecturers, with students constantly reminded that cut and pasting a wiki article isn't the same as doing actual research. But is it?

You can see why they're worried: anyone can edit Wikipedia, and there's a lot of fun to be had in doing so. Whilst most editors are fastidious about their accuracy, it’s always tempting to play around with an article, if only to see how long you can get away with it before the editors descend.

But as the editorial process becomes more and more stringent, attitudes to Wikipedia are changing. Some universities are even including wikipedia editing as part of their courses, to encourage students to share what they've learned. The site isn’t just a source of knowledge; the editing itself can be a learning process, as well as an opportunity to practise communicating complicated topics to a general audience. It's not just the accuracy that needs improving - some articles on scientific subjects include far too much detail and technical jargon, contradicting the site's aim to make knowledge freely accesible to all. 

There are over eight thousand articles about geology on Wikipedia - and that's just those which are easy to classify. Whether you agree with Wikipedia or not, this information is reaching a huge audience - the 'volcano' page receives over 160,000 hits per month. With so much traffic around the world, the consequences of errors or misleading articles can be huge. 

To try and encourage greater accuracy, particularly in the science pages, Wikimedia UK is collaborating with scientific organisations to encourage more members to contribute to Wikipedia articles. GSL Fellow Brian Whalley took part in a recent event:

“On 30 March, the Geological Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry teamed up with Wikimedia UK to provide a training workshop on becoming a ‘Wikipedian’", he writes.

"Whilst Wikipedia is a resource that can induce contempt in some academics, many people, students and academics, do find it useful. Some correct or add new entries to increase Wikipedia’s range, depth, accuracy and utility. These 'Wikipedians' enhance the project by contributing their editing skills, interests and knowledge. 

"We had the opportunity to discuss Wikipedia’s rules about neutrality, referencing and correcting entries, as well as using a ‘sandbox’ or trial area to produce entries. Behind the scenes data shows that many entries of interest to geoscientists are ‘stubs’. These are articles ‘ deemed too short to provide encyclopaedic coverage of a subject’. Becoming a geoscientific Wikipedian would greatly enhance Wikipedia’s geological coverage.”

Wikipedia geology projectBecoming a Wikipedia editor can be daunting – the English site currently has nearly four million articles in all, and is expanding rapidly. To simplify things, the pages are organised into ‘projects’, with editors volunteering to join in with the projects which best fit their expertise. Projects can be general – there is a ‘geology project’, for example, or very specific subjects. Once a member, editors can get a better sense of what articles already exist, and which are in need of shaping up. They can also discuss any issues with other editors. 

All Wikipedia articles are rated for the accuracy, neutrality, completeness and style. ‘Featured articles’ (FA) are those which have come out on top, after being rated by Wikipedia editors. After this, articles are graded from A to C, or classified as ‘start’ or ‘stub’ articles which need completing. It’s easy to access the articles listed in the table, or have a look at a project which is more specific to your expertise, such as palaeontology, volcanoes, dinosaurs, etc.

A quick look at the geology project’s table shows that, whilst there are some excellent examples, there is still a lot of work to be done to improve geology’s presence on Wikipedia. 

Like it or not, Wikipedia has become one of the first - and often only - resources people turn to in search of answers. And despite the occasional well publicised errors and hoaxes, the site's commitment to providing accessible and high quality information is the reason for its popularity. The more experts engage, the better the information will be, and without their input, others less qualified will fill the gap. The responsibility lies with those who know better to get there first.